Hector and the Search for Happiness

September 27th, 2014





Hector and the Search for Happiness, to put it bluntly, does not work as a movie. It is a self-serving, sporadically funny, awkwardly flighty, and unrealistic jaunt of a film. Simon Pegg is the perfect guy to play a psychiatrist that journeys across the world to find true happiness, but he alone is not enough to salvage the movie as a whole.  It is directed by Peter Chelsom, who did other films such as 2001’s, “is it love or fate”, rom-com Serendipity,  and 2004’s Shall We Dance. His resume proves that he has a knack for romanticizing the happy things in life. The plot of this particular film lacks any real depth as we spend two hours watching Hector dash around the world equipped with a seemingly disposable income.    

Hector, who lives a neat and tidy existence with the guidance of his wife Clara (played by the gorgeous and popular Rosemund Pike), craves depth to his life. He lives his days with his consistent stream of patients that visit, with their anxieties and problems.  He appropriately answers their questions with a question, the way a good therapist does.  When he gets tired of all the same, he snaps on one of his patients and realizes he is not happy. The film is based on the book by Francois Lelord of the same title. So, Hector sets off to travel the world, to find himself, his happiness, and what makes everyone else happy. 

What this film never succeeds at is getting past its few funny moments and giving enough “character” to care about. Top of mind, is a short moment where Hector tells a woman with an accent that he is searching for happiness. She responds by not pronouncing the H, which makes it sound like “A PENIS”. The laugh is genuine, but the rest of this film is quite bland.  In several instances, Hector scribbles thoughts in his “happiness” journal (with drawings), that seem like he stole them from a 16 year old girls Twitter account. “Happiness is being able to listen”, and although this line may be true, it is not a groundbreaking discovery.        

Hector travels to China, the mountains of Tibet, Africa, and back to California to see an ex-girlfriend (a wasted performance from Toni Colette) he never had closure with. During the film, he has a short love fling with a Chinese girl; paid for by his new wealthy friend he met on the airplane (played by Stellan Skarsgard). He deals with being kidnapped by drug lords in Africa, giving us a shallow moment where Hector fears for his life.  This completely misses the mark. As a viewer I was not afraid for him, and found myself waiting for his next destination, which was not too long of a wait, as within minutes he cheered up with some happy monks on the Tibetan hills. Interjecting between are short Skype conversations with Clara, brief looks into Hector’s childhood fears of an airplane, and losing his dog. None of this insight into his early life fully develops. It is all interesting to watch, but feels effortless. 

As the film winds down with Hector fulfilling his journey, he meets with the ex-GF and is introduced to her friend, the hip hooded sweatshirt wearing professor Coreman (played cheerfully by Christopher Plummer), something was off. Hector understands that the happiness he had with Clara was there all along- even though any man with Rosamund Pike as a girlfriend should be happy. The result of Hector and the Search for Happiness is not all terrible; Pegg is charming to watch, but what he discovers at the end of his journey seems like something we all could learn from the Walgreens greeting card section. Not a trip across the globe. 

2 Stars

Written by: Leo Brady


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